The nature of Carthaginian imperial activity: Trade, settlement, conquest, and rule

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Theses / Dissertations
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Doctor of Philosophy
University of Canterbury. Classics
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Rainey, Sean

Carthage was a powerful and influential state in the Central and Western Mediterranean from the ninth to the second century BC. From its humble beginnings as a Phoenician trading port on the coast of modern Tunisia, Carthage grew rapidly, assuming control of much of the Phoenician territory in North Africa, Spain, Sardinia, and Sicily. In addition to these major territories, the Carthaginians, like the Phoenicians before them, were active beyond the boundaries of the contemporary ancient world in the Atlantic, Africa, Europe, and Southern Britain. In many respects, Carthage continued the activities of its Phoenician forebears by trading, colonising, and maintaining an empire. However, based on its Phoenician heritage, intermingling with North African Berber culture, and foreign influence, Carthage developed its own distinctive society and culture.

Carthaginian society was constantly evolving. This had an obvious effect on its activities and the nature of its empire. Carthage and the Punic culture it spawned is often characterised by this empire and its associated activities, as they were primary to its economy, society, and function in antiquity. Aspects of Carthaginian activity were changeable and often inter-related and like Carthage's society were constantly developing. Associated Carthaginian motivation and methods are often distinguishable and can be identified as defining factors in greater areas of society and history.

This thesis addresses a much maligned and mysterious society based primarily on its activities and tactics abroad. The main object is to establish a Carthaginian character as distinctive from its Phoenician predecessors and that of other contemporary nations in the Western Mediterranean such as the Greeks and Romans. This study addresses various forms of such activity over a broad chronological period in relation to internal developments and foreign pressures and influences. Carthaginian activity was defined by various and mutable forms of trade, settlement, and active expansion. These remained integral parts of Carthaginian society in general and are vital factors in our understanding of this civilisation and its interaction with others.

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Copyright Sean Rainey